Shuffleboard, sofas, TVs, and beer-keg sconces lend to the clubhouse vibe.
7408 Trade Street, San Diego
Of the ten breweries currently operating in Miramar, most chose the location for affordable rents and compatible zoning. Division 23 co-founders Allen Hampton and Kellen Smith started brewing at their Trade Street address out of convenience — they already worked there. Before opening their tasting room to the public on May 16, it was just some extra space attached to their offices. "Our core business is upstairs," Hampton says. "We had this warehouse space and we brought in some home-brew equipment and we were brewing in here with a lot of friends and family."
That was three years ago. "We hadn't really intended to open to the public," Hampton continues. “We were just building a kind of clubhouse for ourselves."
So many people started showing up that the beer they'd worked ten hours to brew would be gone in two. They wanted to make more beer but knew scaling up without commercial brewing experience would result in more headaches than success. Right around that time, they met Kevin Dougherty.
Dougherty had just come off stints brewing for Widmer Brothers and Bear Republic, or, as Smith points out, "He's worked in huge production facilities that make good beer." Dougherty's understanding of the process required of professional brewers emboldened Hampton and Smith to join the boom that's earned Miramar the nickname “Beeramar." They hired him as head brewer and committed to going public.
The first issue they faced was scaling up their recipes, particularly sourcing the right hops. Smith says, "We're at such a small scale in comparison to production brewers, our hops are kind of harder to come by."
"People buy hops futures nowadays," Dougherty explains. "Say you take a beer like [Ballast Point's] Sculpin. It's got, what? Thirteen, fourteen different kinds of hops in it? They've gotta make sure that beer's going to taste identical today as it will four years from now."
So, larger, established breweries already own a majority of popular hops, such as Amarillo, making it tough for a nano like Division 23 to scale up the recipe for their Bitter Foreman IPA.
Dougherty adapted a recipe he calls "pretty dang close" to the original, which he describes as "a very classic IPA, like one you would have had five years ago."
In the process of testing different hops, the three worked together to spin off a second IPA they call Freight Damage, a dry-hopped number with more delicate floral notes, at least in its current rendering. Dougherty says he plans to let this IPA evolve over time as different hops become available, planning to source "what's new and crazy and what I can get, and kind of just have fun with it."
Division 23 went wilder than Germany with the syrups.
The tasting room meets their clubhouse aims, featuring couches, TV screens, games, and lighting fixtures crafted from small kegs, including, as Hampton calls them, "The manliest sconces you'll ever see." It's not just a man cave, though, as evidenced by a lineup of beers catering to a wide range of tastes, and a rank of colorful fruit syrups atop the bar. These are meant to flavor their crisp Berliner Weiss, dubbed Sour Superintendent, in a manner consistent with the beer's origins.
"Traditionally, that's how they do it in Germany," says Dougherty. "They serve it with either raspberry or woodruff, and we kind of took that and went wild with it." Wild to the tune of nine different syrups, resulting in colorful taster flights unlike any other in town.